Scotland on Sunday has learned that the BMA has “formally dissolved its links” with the Charles Hastings Wine Club – named after the founder of the group that represents the UK’s medical profession.
The club, which had offered doctors substantial online discounts, will no longer be promoted by the BMA to its membership and will be excluded from holding functions such as dinners at official events, including the professional body’s annual meeting.
The Charles Hastings Wine Club logo also no longer features on the BMA website.
Last night Tory MSP Alex Johnstone welcomed the move, adding: “Perhaps members of the medical profession will now have to find more ingenious ways of getting access to cheaper alcohol.”
He added that it was in line with the BMA’s backing for minimum pricing, which the Scottish Government wants to set at 45p per unit.
He said: “The decision demonstrates a degree of consistency, given what the BMA has been saying on minimum unit pricing. As long as the BMA doesn’t pry into the lives of its members, I’m happy for them to take this action.”
Senior officials at the BMA had faced claims of hypocrisy due to the backing from medics for the Scottish Government’s minimum pricing legislation, which is aimed at outlawing cheap supermarket offers.
The BMA’s ruling body is understood to have taken the decision after some medics expressed concern about the promotions, which previously advertised a case of Château Picard wine, “exclusive to members of the Charles Hasting Wine Club”, being sold at “in bond” price (excluding UK duty and taxes) instead of retail price.
Wine club officials will no longer have access to BMA membership lists and “can no longer use or associate itself with the BMA, its logo or operate under its supervision”.
The club will still sell cheap fine wines and organise drink tours, visits to whisky distilleries and excursions to pubs and ale houses to its existing members, but without any assistance from the BMA.
A spokeswoman for BMA Scotland said: “The BMA has formally dissolved its links with the Charles Hastings Wine Club, following a decision approved at the BMA annual representatives meeting in June.”
Labour’s Scottish health spokesman Richard Simpson, a former GP, welcomed the decision. He said: “Breaking the links won’t stop doctors drinking, but hopefully it will stop the BMA promoting alcohol, as it causes such serious problems. This is a sensible move and it’s welcome that the BMA has realised that its association with the wine club was not totally appropriate.”